One of the amazing things about study abroad is that it offers the opportunity to not just travel, visit, or tour a foreign country, but, to live in a foreign country. When I first arrived in France, I felt in a weird position; I didn’t feel quite like a tourist — I was running around trying to find my classes and way around a new city, getting lost, becoming acquainted with a new university, doing schoolwork, figuring out where to buy socks…and the like. These “tasks” were not like those in Seattle, in that, in Seattle I could go to Target to buy socks (and everything else I needed), and I knew how to get there. However, these “tasks” that I experienced during my first month or so here in Paris, were combined with a sort of quasi-Touring.
Occasionally, being lost would brighten my day. During my first week in Paris, I was frustrated and angry when I couldn’t find my way to the metro station — but where did I end up? Right along the Seine, staring across to see a giant building: The Louvre. Another day, I had a break during class so decided to take a walk down Boulevard Saint-Germain, a famous street just next to Sciences Po. Walking along, enjoying the sun, I came upon a park. It looked nice, so I entered and took a walk around. Later, I discovered that it was The Luxembourg Gardens; blissfully ignorant, I had walked around enjoying the flowers, ponds, and statues without a clue that I was in the famous gardens, with the French Senate building just next door. Not realizing where I was made the experience different in a way. I have been back to “Les Jardins du Luxembourg,” but will always remember that first time I walked through what to me was just a beautiful park.
While not quite a tourist, but not quite a resident, the first few days, weeks, sometimes even months in a foreign country are often comprised of a bizarre mix of “normal,” daily tasks, with that of your average tourist activities. What’s different is that you might find yourself stumbling upon the Eiffel Tower on your way to meet a friend, rather than seeking it out in a guide book.